"He could be funny anywhere. We were such close friends," Billy Crystal said of Robin Williams in a special tribute to the comedian aired midway through the Emmy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles last night (25 August).

"He made us laugh. Hard. Every time you saw him - on television, movies, nightclubs, arenas, hospitals, homeless shelters for our troops overseas. And even in a dying girl's living room for her last wish, he made us laugh. Big time.

"I spent many happy hours with Robin on stage," he continued. "The brilliance was astounding. The relentless energy was kind of thrilling. I used to think if I could just put a saddle on him and stay on him for eight seconds I was going to do OK.

"It is very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives. For almost 40 years he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy.

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"While some of the brightest of our celestial bodies are actually extinct now, their energy long since cooled, but miraculously, because they float in the heavens so far away from us now, their beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever.

"And the glow will be so bright it will warm your heart and will make your eyes glisten and you will think to yourselves, 'Robin Williams. What a concept.'"

And for the most part, the audience at home and in the Nokia Theatre crowd appeared visibly moved by the segment.

That is until the honour ended in a series of clips of the comedian in action, cracking jokes during televised interviews and in stand-up.

In particular, it included a short snippet of a stand-up performance during which Williams borrows a pink scarf from an audience member in the front row and wraps its round his head to simulate a Hijab, or Islamic headscarf.

"I would like to welcome you to Iran... Help me!" he cries.

Viewers participating over Twitter were quick to criticise the inclusion of the joke as "racist":

The person putting together the Robin Williams segment for the Emmys decided to use his racist material.

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they could've shown so many funny robin williams moments during that tribute did they have to use something so racist

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I'm still so shocked that the #Emmys would include such a racist bit in Robin Williams tribute. Out of all his great work, really?

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After that, people who'd never heard of Robin Williams would think he's Billy Crystal's racist friend who was on a lot of talk shows?

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I love Robin Williams but he really had some not ok racist jokes and they even put it in the tribute tonight

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The Williams Emmys tribute followed a shorter honour to the late comedian at the MTV VMAs on Sunday (24 August).

The VMAs tribute was also branded "offensive", this time down to the lack of care fans felt had gone into the short pictorial montage.

"It would have been less insulting to do nothing," one Twitter follower wrote.

- Independent